My parents were not above bribery. I was nineteen years old, and my life was sliding fast down a slippery slope. During the spring semester of my freshman year at college, my dad called to offer me a deal: If I’d come home and finish my degree at a commuter college, he’d buy me a used car, put it in my name, and pay the insurance. I don’t remember whether I was drunk or sober for that conversation, but I said yes, and it changed my life. The following October, I started dating my husband-to-be; and in November, I gave my life to Jesus Christ. Seven months later, I was married. Nine months and two weeks after the wedding, we had our first child. I would say that phone call with my dad about the car was a pretty crucial moment in my life, wouldn’t you? It’s a good idea to reflect on life, searching for those crucial moments…perhaps choices we hadn’t realized were life-changers…
Acts 27:27-32 – “On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.’ So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away.” (emphasis added)
Crucial Moment of Commitment –The sailors dropped anchor and prayed for daylight but then didn’t wait for the fulfillment of their prayer! Perhaps the sailors’ knowledge made faith more difficult, but by taking matters into their own hands, they revealed both their doubt and the darkness of their hearts. The soldiers, on the other hand, showed both faith and character in their complete commitment to Paul’s assurance of God’s faithfulness. Though they had no idea HOW Yahweh would rescue them, they severed all other options, committing to Yahweh’s promise alone.
Acts 27:33-38 – “Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. ‘For the last fourteen days,’ he said, ‘you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.’ After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board. When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.” (emphasis added)
Crucial Moment of Concern – Can you imagine the roiling cauldron of emotion on that ship? The sailors planned to abandon and leave stranded everyone on board, but the soldiers cut the lifeboat, leaving everyone at the mercy of Paul’s God. Imagine the anger, betrayal, fear, exhaustion. And then grasp the impact of Paul’s concern for the physical and emotional well-being of his fellow shipmates. To show concern can often dismantle walls of defense. Compassion can stifle anger. After sharing a meal and taking a much-needed respite, the 276 people on board unite in their effort to lighten the load. They make the irrevocable choice to discard their remaining grain supply. A group decision. A team effort. When we show genuine concern for each other, negatives turn positive and adversaries unite.
Acts 27:39-44 – “When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety.” (emphasis added)
Crucial Moment of Correction – We make a plan with the facts available, but when those facts change—we have a few crucial moments to make corrections to our course. When the soldiers realized they wouldn’t be able to guard their prisoners all the way to shore, they knew execution awaited them if any prisoner escaped. Killing a prisoner rather than allowing escape was military policy, just as “deciding to run the ship aground” was a mariner’s tactic. But when circumstances changed quickly, the sailors made adjustments. And when the centurion’s heart was moved by Paul’s witness, he too made a course correction—no killing of prisoners on this voyage. The ability to make course corrections when unexpected difficulties occur is a crucial skill, practiced with discretion, honed with wisdom.
- Lord, help me be gracious when a circumstance calls for flexibility and change. I need structure and planning, but I’m learning the value of those crucial moments of course correction. Give me the ability to see the person beneath the predicament and offer compassion when emotions run high. And when my intellect fights my faith, give me the courage to make that irrevocable commitment to believe. Open my eyes, Abba, to life’s crucial moments…